where’s my adults only dislike button?

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Who else wishes that sometimes the easiest way to communicate with the teenagers wasn’t to send them a text even when you’re in the same house?

I am like the land of no fun in our house some days I think. And today I’m sure I will be even more because I decided it’s time for a mom vent. We’re allowed even as step parents, right? Where is my parental “dislike button” that solves all problems instantly in forever LOL? What??? There is no magic wand or button? No magic app? Come on! So not fair!

Take video games. I really don’t like video games, they have never intrigued me. I am definitely considered square as a result by the males in my house. What they don’t seem to get is I have less of a problem with video games, when things happen in moderation. But if you have a teen who is super into gaming, moderation goes right out the window. And all fairness to teenagers, I have seen adults do the same thing. It’s like they get sucked in and their brains with it.

And if left to their own devices kids totally into video games will literally game an entire day away or until their eyeballs bleed, whichever happens first. And some times they don’t even stop to eat or have anything to drink. And after a couple hours straight, they can get downright cranky, yelling at the TV screen and so on. And of course there is that social aspect where all the teens meet in their virtual world of gaming and talk to each other through their headphones. So how do you strike a balance without being the bad guy?2015/01/img_2947.jpg

Which is why when to comes to videogames I think a bank of hours works best. When the kid goes through the hours it’s their time management lesson. Sounds harsh but I almost miss the good old days when they went outside or read a book or had an actual conversation.

Next up? Social media/chat programs.

A friend of mine commented recently on how she thinks teenagers today are actually missing out on old school dating rituals for lack of a better description. She talked about the “good old days” when you took your girlfriends to check out a guy or vice versa, the furtive late night phone calls, and the fact that we have such awesome music to choose from growing up!

Here, I found it. This is what she said:

“Perhaps technology is taking away from the teen crush/dating experience. So many ways to communicate without the dreaded visit or phone call to the love interest’s house and through the parent “screening process” or the visit to their (potentially rival) hang out (like a pond or park) and through the friend “screening process.” This, combined with bad music, makes me feel badly for them.”

To that I add they are missing out on the talking and having actual conversations that enable them to truly get to know each other because all they do is TEXT. And I also wonder if that has something to do with how dates are planned now, which is often fairly last minute.

There are a million chat and text programs and apps out there. They change as quickly as clothing styles and hairstyles. Apps come in apps fall out of fashion. Do you really know what your kids are doing on any of these apps or programs?

Where is the balance of giving them their privacy but wanting them to be safe? Some parents are overly involved in this aspect of their kids lives and some rival Captain Oblivious in this area. Where is the middle ground?

Today a member of a parenting group I belong to posted what I am about to post. I will warn you it’s a little graphic, but it’s reality. Here it is:

Hey guys……. Let’s talk PHONES. Laptops desktops. iPads and Internet. Filtering. And social media and our kids. Especially as it relates to sexual conduct. I’m going out on a branch here to open up this conversation because Id like some feedback from this group.

I have recently become aware of some VERY disturbing things going on with kids. Are you filtering? Do your kids have iPhones? Data? Are they allowed on Instagram? Snapchat? Kik? Do you restrict their access to porn? Do you allow phones in room at night? Do you allow sleepovers? Are they allowed with phones in rooms at night on sleepovers? Are you aware of parents at other houses police any of this? Do you care?

I’m curious what others are doing, or not doing, because I have been made acutely aware that they think certain “things” are considered normal and common such as “group masterbation while watching porn on phones general porn watching on phones, “bro jobs” soggy waffle (nice) “Pansexuality” anal sex among 14 yr olds and a variety of other activities that are being cast as the new “norm”.

Number one. Are you aware of this? Number two what is anyone doing to help their kids. Thanks. Hope this post doesn’t deliver *crickets* lol


Unfortunately she’s not just whistling Dixie. How do you strike a balance without being the parental hate police? Tweens and teens are by nature secretive. They also think they know everything.

I am all for electronics being taken out of the bedrooms at night. I can only control what goes on in my house, I can’t control what goes on in the houses of the kids my kid is friends with. And for the most part I’m really lucky he knows good kids. But still….these programs and apps are worrisome.

A lot of these chat things the tweens and teens use promote ugliness like cyber bullying. I’ve seen it I know it happens. One website I find absolutely vile and astounding that any parent would allow their kids to have is an account on ask.FM.

And then there is what kids post. The young teen girls in particular don’t get the whole Lolita of it all. But then again you have to look at what some of the parents are posting. No one gets it some days.

Maybe I’m more aware of a lot of this because I’ve been a blogger for a few years. Maybe I’m more aware of some of this is because as an adult I was cyberbullied for a few months straight. Or maybe I just think too much and I shouldn’t post this post after all…

Someone pointed out this web article:

Crosswalk.com 9 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids

Here is the list they compiled:

Whisper , YikYak, kik ,ChatRoulette , Omegle,snap chat, Tinder (This app, and similar apps such as Down, Skout, Pure, Blendr are all about the hook up), Poof (hides apps on your phone screen),

Now this website is a faith based one, which isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but they aren’t necessarily wrong about raising awareness of apps and what they do. I don’t see Vine as particularly harmful, either.

They left off Ask.fm . Seriously that site is vile. An article released today indicates they are trying to “clean up their act”:

Ask.FM cleans up its act Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY 9:04 a.m. EST January 15, 2015

LOS ANGELES — In the five months since Ask.com has taken over the controversial anonymous app Ask.FM, usage has dropped as the new owner has tried to clean up practices.

From its peak of 200 million users before Ask bought Ask.FM last summer, the app now has 150 million monthly users. Ask.com CEO Doug Leeds doesn’t mind.

“We’re in it for the long haul. We’ll get great growth when we get the message that it’s now a safe place to be,” he says.

With the app, used heavily by teens around the globe, you can anonymously ask people questions, ranging from “Do you think I’m cute?” to “why are you so unpopular?”

Before IAC unit Ask.com bought Ask.FM, the Latvia-based app was targeted by several district attorneys after teens committed suicide, apparently after bullying from users of the app.

Tech4Mommies lists their problem app list as Poof or Hide App, SnapChat, Whisper, Kik, YikYak, Tinder, Vine, and Ask.fm. CheckupNewsRoom.com lists their problem app list as: YikYak, SnapChat, Kik, Poof, Omegle, Whisper, and Down. EducateEmpowerKid.org lists as their list Tinder, SnapChat, Blendr, Kik, Whisper, Ask.fm, YikYak, Poof, Omegle, Down.

My take away is it doesn’t matter if it’s a faith-based website or just a parent-centric website, there is a commonality in as much as the list of what problem apps are. So are we paying attention to these things? Are we being too laissez faire or too hypervigilant? Or none of the above? And what are our schools doing really? Are they leaving this up to us as parents or are they really in fact an active partner in figuring this all out? As far as schools go, I’m leaning a little more towards the lip service category. It’s like cyber bullying – they seem talk a good game and have “policies” but what do they really do?

I also found this interesting:

“Facebook Is Dead To Us”: What Teens Think About 11 Of The Biggest Social Networks Tuesday, January 13, 2015 by Ari Herstand

19 year old, Andrew Watts, is a sophomore Management Information Systems major (marketing minor) at the University of Texas in Austin and penned an interesting glimpse into the world of teenage (and college) consumption (or lack thereof) of the biggest social networks. We see studies day in and day out from Gallup or Pew on polling that is then interpreted by all the hot tech blogs, but very few articles actually cite real, blood pumping teenage humans. And by the time the studies are published, most likely, the stats are dated – as teenage trends move in and out so quickly. What do they actually think, in their own words, about the various social networks? Watts lays it out:

Watts states: “It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave.” ….“Snapchat is quickly becoming the most used social media network.” He explains, the difference between Snapchat and Instagram is in the etiquette. On Snapchat people will post photos and videos of their night as it happens. The good, the bad and the fugly. On Instagram they post “the cutest one of the bunch.”…..Yik Yak is simple. There are no profiles and no followers. Anyone can post anything and it gets up or down thumbed (ala Reddit). Everything from “I just farted” to “Going to the girls basketball game tonight at 8.” He says everyone is on it before class, during class, and after class to find out what is going on around campus. Yik Yak is hyper local (only shows posts within a 10 mile radius). So he says completely unused during school breaks.

Related to above:

Medium.com: A Teenager’s View on Social Media Written by an actual teen

Medium.com: An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media

I discovered a website that seems to make things pretty pretty balanced. It’s called ConnectSafely.org . It’s geared towards teens, parents, and educators.

The thing is this: we want to encourage kids to make smart choices. We want to keep the lines of communication open as well. The problem is we’re talking about tweens and teens and they don’t want to talk to us a lot of the time. Get real ……did you want to talk to your parents about stuff you didn’t want to talk to your parents about it when you were their age?

It’s frustrating. I am the first person to admit it. And I have been at this parenting game a lot fewer years than a lot of the rest of you out there. How do you strike the balance? A lot of that balance has to do with being a friend versus being a parent. Add to that when your kids come in contact with the parenting styles of their friends’ parents. And what works and some families doesn’t necessarily work in others.

You can’t wrap your kids and cotton wool and you can’t shield them from the world. They have to experience life on their own terms, and one of the hard things I’m learning about being a parent is trusting them and letting them go enough to do that. You can provide them with a good moral compass, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to shield them from the inappropriate in life. It’s part of life, after all.

To me, I keep coming back to balance and moderation. I also have to be accepting of the things that I don’t like and what my teenager doesn’t like that I don’t like. Somewhere in the middle I think lies the answer. Rules and common sense don’t hurt either.

But as parents we can’t be ostriches a stick our heads in the sand and say. “La la la la this isn’t happening” any more than we can be the parent police. So I guess as much as it can be uncomfortable for both sides of the fence as in teens and parents, it’s an ongoing work in progress and necessary conversation isn’t it?

I will close by saying I’m a modern woman with an old-fashioned side I’m discovering when to comes to parenting. I’m not the cool parent who going to say let’s have a co-ed sleepover I think that’s bunk and to an extent asking for trouble. I am the parent who is going to ask questions, because in as much as anything else it’s how I learn about things….not just the inner workings of the teenage mind.

I try not to be the Parental Spanish Inquisition but when you’re dealing with teenagers sometimes everything is the Parental Spanish Inquisition. And in a way this is a brave new world for me because growing up there was a lot I did not feel like I could talk to my parents about safely, so I have to learn how to talk to kids about certain things.

The flip side of course is sometimes teenagers could give their parents less of a hard time. I know, I know. That is the age old battle time in memoriam isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by.

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church farms school latest to deal with touchy-feely adults

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Sign me disgusted on this one. The news has broken with yet another teacher/guidance counselor/coach/school employee having inappropriate relationships with students. What is wrong with people? And what is wrong with the education system and both public and private schools that they can’t screen out potential problems?

The news broke last night about Sarah O’Neill of Coatesville, previously employed by the august Church Farms School right on Route 30 in Exton. This elite boys boarding school says on their website “inspiring boys, fulfilling dreams”. Somehow a touchy feely past female employee charged with having a full blown affair with an underage male student is not exactly what they had in mind, don’t you think?

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I do not get what motivates these purported “adults” basically every single time one of these stories hits the media. This story, like the others, totally grosses me out and skeeves me. A couple of years ago my alma mater Shipley went through this. Within the past few years there was also that incident at Bayard Rustin high school in West Chester with the swim coach.

Of course the Shipley story/issue/perversion made the news again last summer when authorities discovered that the guy who was the former coach had been living with the student he was never supposed to have contact with again. Mind you when I read that article I wondered what the hell was wrong with the girl’s parents in addition to this creepy guy?

And then there was the Valley Forge Military Academy and College guidance counselor who also got caught in a “compromising position” around 2012. The list seems somewhat endless over the past few years and I don’t get it. With all the background checks that are supposed to be done for people who want to be in the education field and so on I don’t understand how these people fall through the cracks? These things just happen magically? Or have they been happening all along and it’s just because the world we live in that the issues are finally coming to light?

I guess I just don’t get people that are entrusted with the lives and minds of our children doing these things. I don’t understand the motivation. I am sure there is a litany of excuses but surely these adults know the difference between right and wrong? How do they betray the trust of the students and the parents?

So this developing case shows again why people should support non-profits dedicated to fighting sexual abuse and exploitation of children. One is local to Chester County. It’s a wonderful organization called Justice4PAkids. You can click on hyperlink to view their website and find them on Facebook.

Anyway, here’s the early media coverage on this so made for a ridiculous Lifetime TV movie linked below.

Add Sarah O’Neill 35 of Coatesville to the touchy-feely wall of shame in Pennsylvania.

NBC10 Philadelphia : Chester County Teacher Accused of Having Sex, Relationship With Student

A Chester County teacher is accused of having sex with one of her students during a relationship that lasted nearly a year.

“The thought that I could love so deeply and so wrongly pervaded before you and I even officially began,” Sarah O’Neill allegedly wrote the teen. “It was quite a long winter break before my lips even attempted yours and I wondered if you were as affected as I.”

O’Neill, 35, of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was a teacher at Church Farm School, an all-boys private school in Exton, Pennsylvania. The teen, who is now 17, told police he began a relationship with O’Neill in January, 2014, when he was 16 and she was his teacher. The two expressed their love for one another and began a relationship that lasted 10 months, according to investigators.

Daily Local : Church Farm School teacher arrested for alleged sexual relationship with student

…..Sarah O’Neill, of Coatesville, was arrested on four counts of corruption of minors on Tuesday for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student. Police said the relationship began in January 2014 and lasted for about 10 months.

Police said O’Neill was charged for four separate incidents that allegedly occurred in her car and at area hotels

women and social media

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One of my mother’s favorite expressions is “never complain, never explain”. As I flip through Facebook this morning while having my coffee, I thought I would pass it on. Some people might actually need it cross stitched and framed. Do you sense sarcasm here? Just a little bit? Sorry, I just find women and social media an oddity at times.

There is a lot of glass half empty and what the world owes people going on online. But maybe that is just social media: our own personal platforms for way too much grexing. (“Grexing” is Pennsylvania German for whining, complaining, or brutzing.)

I understand that everyone has troubles at different points in their lives and I totally get feeling the need to vent now and then, but there are some who are always seeming to be this way. I don’t know if they are this way in person all the time at this point or if this is just their online persona. But it’s like they are constantly negative and chronically angry and how is that healthy?

Trust me, I can whine with the best of them. But when you seem to be barraged with it from certain people all the time it gives you pause for thought. Is the glass really always half-empty? Why isn’t it ever half-full?

None of us are perfect, but do some of us simply expect too much of other people without looking to see what we can do by standing on our own two feet? It’s just that when I see some of what some people are putting “out there” for the world to see versus friends I have who lives with horrible diseases every single day and are among the most positive people I’ve ever met, it just makes me stop and think. I know women who are living with diseases like multiple sclerosis and metastatic breast cancer. Truthfully, these are the women that inspire me. They have every right to complain, but they don’t. They live. And they live positively and with love.

Whatever happened to personal accountability? Why is the world responsible for everything that goes wrong in our lives? We are all capable of free will, so unless we are being dangerously coerced or abused, aren’t we the ones making those decisions? From businesses to kids to life to men it’s giant gripe-fest some mornings. In some cases I can’t help but wonder if it’s karma, and I feel bad even thinking that, but when you treat other people poorly or rudely for long enough, what happens? Is it the old adage of everything that goes around eventually comes around?

A dear friend’s husband said to me that I need new people in my sphere, and I don’t think I necessarily that but I think some need a new outlook. And I’m not Pollyanna every day, so don’t misunderstand me, it’s just sometimes I am left silently asking these people a question. That question is how are we responsible for your personal happiness? And I am not silently asking that question to be mean. I want to know how it is we are supposed to be responsible for own lives and our families and their happiness? And yet we are called disloyal and worse if we don’t jump on the online bandwagon of support, which I don’t get. Do these people want true friends or sychophants?

Personally, I am someone who can be extraordinarily hard on myself. I am probably harder on myself than anyone else ever is. But when I see other people’s negativity head on it gives me pause, and makes me look inward at myself and my attitude too for that matter.

And then there are the women I see in groups who ask questions of total strangers that I don’t know that I would even voice out loud to people I know. Some of the questions range from the “lady you need boundaries that’s very personal” to “say what did she really just say that?”

And in group forums, there are some women who seem to view everyone else as the Shell Answer Man for lack of a better description. Sometimes I wonder if these people can get out of bed in the morning without seeking consensus first. Looking for referrals for a doctor, hair salon, restaurant, service provider I get those questions. But what I don’t get is when people post things like they have a cheating spouse and spouse was a cheating person before they married them and they just caught them at it again and what should they do should they just stay or should they leave? Really??? This is something you ask a thousand strangers ??

Another another favorite topic in the group forums is what to pay the babysitter. I’ve come to the conclusion there are a lot of cheap women out there.

And then there are the women who seek actual medical advice from a thousand strangers they don’t know and who definitely aren’t medical professionals- yes, that consensus seeking syndrome again. And I’m not talking about their asking medical related questions in a group that is geared specifically towards a disease or disorder. I’m talking about the women who should be filed under the category of “there are no boundaries on this bus”. And really, I don’t need to read what color your kid’s poop is either. (Yes seriously I have seen people post things about that.)

The thing that amuses me about some of these women when I see what they’re writing in public (and if it’s on Facebook or Twitter or other social media, it’s in public) is that these are often the type of women that I would run into a few short years ago who would say “I don’t know how you can blog. It’s so public.” And the tone of voice and face that would accompany comments like this was like I was doing something well, dirty.

Yes, to an extent, the Internet is like a giant bathroom wall. Which means what exactly? A society we are changing how we share? Or it’s just nice to have a place to vent? Or we should learn to once again to occasionally curb the streams of flowing consciousness?

Another amusing thing about women and social media are the ones who try to develop a particular persona that’s really not who they are in real time. I’m talking about the ones who are all so sickly sweet and posting cute little phrases often with photos constantly while they God bless everyone and thank God for blessings everything. And I am not speaking of the people I know who are truly good and Christian women, I’m talking about the ones that think we don’t know how they treat other people in real time and how viciously they gossip when they’re off their social media pages.

I really respect women who are who real and true online and off.

One of my favorite things hands-down still about connecting with women I know on social media is it’s a way to keep up with relatives and friends who are spread out and scattered to the four winds. It’s really nice to see pictures of their kids, and hear about what everyone is doing. One of the sad things however, is you can also see those who are starting to self-destruct and disintegrate. It makes you wonder why their families don’t see it too at times.

And then we all know people who seem unable to have actual conversations any longer, yet you can read all about it on social media. Maybe I am showing my age that I lament the lost art of conversation and even thank you notes. But I do think people don’t talk to each other enough any longer. Texting and tweeting and Facebooking are not talking. They might be a form of communication, but it is not the same nor a substitute for speaking and having conversations. And this doesn’t just occur with adults, it occurs with the young – our kids. And I think our kids need to be able to communicate and express how they’re feeling traditionally not just via social media and texting. And a lot of times they can’t.

I know some people I know are going to be annoyed or almost paranoid by this post I’ve written. Ladies, rest easy, the one thing that has never changed with me in all these years is telling you exactly how I am feeling person to person. If I had an issue with you I wouldn’t allude to it vaguely on a social media feed or in a blog post, I would tell you. In other words I’m not gonna play whisper down the lane behind your back yet in front of your face like a lot of people do on social media, this is just something I was thinking about as I was drinking my coffee this morning.

Thanks for stopping by and please, try to see the bright spots in life. It’s really easy to be negative, it’s much more work to be positive but so worth it. Life, every day, is a gift.

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mmmm more decent mexican in malvern

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I love Mexican food. And now that we have tried them a couple of times, I thought I would mention El Charro Negro which is terrific for take-out and delivery.

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Their website does not work but their location is 524 Lancaster Ave., Malvern PA. Their phone number is 484-356-1281 and you can find their page on Facebook. The food is not fancy or overly complicated, it it’s just good.

I am especially enamored of their tacos, which are delicious and fresh. They use small soft tacos which seem to be homemade and they are in the style of what people refer to as “street tacos”. I also really like their guacamole and pico de gallo. Both come with a side of chips which are also homemade and delicious. My one comment about the guacamole and pico de gallo is that they could spice it up a bit it needs more cilantro and and a little more heat from a fresh jalapeno. Both are extraordinarily fresh but a little bland for my taste. But then again they could be doing that for the American palate because a lot of Americans don’t like super spicy food.2015/01/img_2907.jpg

Their burritos are huge and so are their enchiladas and other things like that. The food is very fresh and thus far has not been particularly greasy which is terrific.

They are open seven days a week 7 AM to 9 PM so you can also get breakfast. They offer free delivery on $20 or higher orders as per their menu. Give them a try. The only thing I’m not crazy about is if you spend $30 on a delivery order they give you a two point whatever liter of soda. We’re not big soda drinkers and one of the local Chinese restaurants does this too. I would rather have chips and salsa or something like that instead of a soda. But I’m assuming that is a promotion having to do with Coca-Cola. They also serve Mexican soda.

Anyway, give it a try so they stick around a while.

And if anybody has discovered pizza it’s consistent, feel free to post a comment. Athena in West Chester on Paoli Pike is too hit or miss and one of the brother owners is horribly rude and uncaring if you happen to have order issues and get him on the phone. Toninos in Lincoln Court Shopping Center where the Giant is on Route 30 in Malvern/Frazer can also be inconsistent, the food overly salty, and it’s wicked expensive.

We don’t do a ton of takeout/delivery but it’s nice to have options which deliver. And the delivery services are not so hot and expensive. Once you get out of the vicinity of the borough of West Chester delivery is also something hit or miss.

Thanks for stopping by stay warm and dry today it’s miserable outside.

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a box full of buttons

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I bought a box full of buttons today. Actually it was a crusty old tin of buttons.

Anyway amongst the little mother of pearl and other kinds of buttons and beads I found cool stuff: A little cameo and some kind of uniform tack from an old Pennsylvania Railroad uniform. You don’t realize what a big employer the Pennsylvania Railroad was until you start seeing things in Chester County, which is loaded with railroad memorabilia.

Also in this pile of buttons were a bunch of men’s black and white tie old evening studs. Some of the studs are mother of pearl and are are very Downton Abbey evening wear!

It is so fun pouring through the buttons and wondering what they came off of.

Thanks for stopping by!
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corporate america and the lost art of customer service

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So while breaking news out of Washington the other day was Pat Toomey is now in charge of the candy drawer in the United States Senate, life goes on. My only comment on Senator Toomey is I hope he will be paying for candy out of his own pocket and is not expensing it to United States taxpayers. He was already sending out junk mail news updates about it this morning, and somehow I doubt he paid for that personally, right? Fair is fair, he wants to live his conservative values, he should be paying for the candy.

Meanwhile, let’s focus on what we, as every day people “pay for”. I would like to particularly zoom in on customer service. Now there’s a loaded topic, right?

Customer service. I think it is a lost art form. 2015/01/img_2768.gif

Let’s begin with Pennsylvania based banking giant, PNC Bank. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, they used to offer terrific service. Today, I’ve discovered not so much once you get past a friendly local teller and lots and lots of fees and service charges…..but not customer service one would expect. It seems like they want your money, but they don’t really care about the customer.

In November, I walked into a local PNC branch during their posted business hours to open another account. I was told I couldn’t open it that day, but I would have to make an appointment to come back another day.

HUH?????

Yes it sounds like the opening lines to a very bad standup comedy routine but it was true. A woman walked into a bank to open an account check in hand and was told to come back another time. Yup, it happened.

But no worries, the gentleman I spoke to on the phone from the branch when they told me as an existing customer with check in hand it was not possible to open a new bank account in a bank branch during business hours has been having a swell time checking out my LinkedIn profile. (Yes dear, peek a boo, I can see your profile too!)

I wrote to PNC Bank about this, and basically, they don’t care. They sent me a brief note in response to my feedback and said they would notify the branch and regional managers. Can you hear the crickets chirping?

My better half and a lot of people I know asked me why I still deal with PNC. Having been an account holder there in good standing for so many years (errr decades actually) , it’s probably habit as much as anything else. After my year-end negative experiences with PNC Bank, I’m thinking a New Year’s resolution might be to shop for a new bank. I opened the new account PNC couldn’t be bothered opening that day at Citizens Bank. So far they have been amazing as far as service. But this wasn’t my only customer service issue with PNC before the end of 2014.

2015/01/img_2764.gifAt the end of December, I paid off a credit card balance in full. I don’t like carrying balances, so I chose from their menu the painful option of pay the full balance off. It wasn’t the largest balance on the face of the earth, but I honored my obligation and paid it off. The credit card was with PNC.

A few days later, even though I paid off the balance in full, they added on one last finance charge. So instead of pulling up my account and finding a zero balance, what I found was what amounts to a nuisance charge. One would think with computer software being what it was that if you choose the option of paying off your entire balance that they would include all charges right?

It was just a few dollars, but at this point I have decided it is the principle of the thing. So I decided to contact customer service. I could not contact customer service on this topic from my account online and conveniently send a message that way, I had to physically call them. That happened to be New Year’s Eve day. I sat on hold for 40 minutes two different times without getting through. That’s 80 Minutes total of the inanity of hold music and the occasional syrupy voice saying how valued you are as a customer without reaching a real person.

My time is worth something I think, so I gave up and contacted them through their social media customer service. On Monday, as in this most recent Monday, January 5th, I received a form letter dated December 31 from a retail escalation specialist at PNC Bank telling me they were unable to reach me by telephone. The letter wasn’t even on letterhead, and my contact information is always updated. I spent many years working in the financial services industry, I know how important that is.

I called the woman Monday who was listed in the letter and left a message with my phone number. I will admit it wasn’t the most pleasant message because I’m pretty hot about this at this point. But it’s Friday, and no one has been able to return a phone call, and that is even after I contacted them again this morning asking why their escalations specialist hadn’t contacted me yet even though I responded promptly to the form letter not on letterhead. How is that customer service? But they thanked me for following up…..

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Of course because I contacted back their social media customer service and told them I hadn’t heard from anyone and that I was going to blog about it, I expect now the phone will ring eventually. I have come to the conclusion that as PNC has grown, customers aren’t really valued any longer unless they are giant mega millions depositors. That’s sad.

But moving along let’s talk about another Pennsylvania corporate giant, Comcast. Comcast is based in Philadelphia. If you live in the city of Philadelphia depending on where you live even in Center City you have very little in the way of choice for cable. Where my mother lives it’s Comcast or Comcast.

So my mother is a senior citizen, she wasn’t weaned on computers or fancy cable and digital television equipment. But she’s not an idiot. She’s been calling Comcast for a couple months at this point with problems with her service. Service she continues to pay for even though she isn’t getting all of the service she is paying for which includes basic customer service.

I wish I could switch her to Verizon FiOs but she’s like prisoner of Zenda because they don’t offer it where she lives. She has lost hours and days off for life waiting for Comcast to come and fix the problem. She is incredibly frustrated by the fact that they outsource their customer service offshore to foreign countries at this point. She said she would have no problem speaking with someone from any country if she could simply understand them, and they her.
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My mother is very clear spoken as well as well spoken, and there’s nothing wrong with her hearing. But when you call Comcast customer service and you go to one of their call centers offshore, the accents are pretty heavy, and they also don’t get apparently a lot of the nuances of every day colloquial American English. And they seem unable to deviate from an inane script for the most part, and frustrate her by not addressing the questions she’s asking.

In the good old days of the not-too-distant past, you used to be able to call Comcast and get call centers in Delaware or Northeast Philadelphia, if not other areas of the United States.

So in addition to the frustration of my mother dealing with Comcast offshore “customer service”, there is the frustration of they are now worse than Time Warner apparently in timeliness of keeping appointments. My mother has been blown off completely for some appointments, and kept waiting hours after the “appointment window” without a phone call on others. And let’s discuss the technicians.

They arrive, and no one seems to know what to do. It’s always someone else’s responsibility to fix it I guess for lack of a better description. Finally they decided that they would have to rerun part of the wiring in her home that they had run in the first place, and not too many years ago. So my mother said okay fine, just have to put the carpet back the way it is supposed to be. Apparently that was a big huge to do and in the end what happened is some technician stapled my mother’s expensive drapes to the floor when they stapled the cabling all around the apartment again. She takes pride in her home, personally I would have been apoplectic when I discovered my curtains stapled to the floor. What kind of slob does that kind of work anyway?

I guess I don’t understand how they could be that sloppy and if the cable was originally run under carpets and such so as not to be obtrusive or a trip hazard or visually ugly why they couldn’t do that again? I get that they don’t want to do extra work, no one does, but if they had installed it in a certain way using their Comcast technicians in the first place, why couldn’t they just put it back that way??

Comcast has a lot of expensive real estate around the greater Philadelphia area, including their monster buildings in the city of Philadelphia. But what they have sacrificed as they have become giants is customer service.

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I’m beginning to think in corporate America, customer service is a lost art because so many companies don’t want to really offer actual customer service. It almost seems as if they feel customer service is counterintuitive to their best practices and bottom lines, as some of these giant corporations have so many more people that they should be able to service so many more people. But they don’t. You spent forever on hold losing your mind to that hold music and a syrupy automated voice thanking you for your patience as you mentally throw darts at a dart board trying not to scream. If you do tough it out and get an actual “customer service representative”, you might get someone who will listen to you but in the end will they actually do anything that is “customer service”?

It used to be American-made and American corporate customer service meant something. But today everything is outsourced or automated in addition to the customer service shortfalls. So when you call for the most American of companies, like American Express for example, you don’t know where your call center is, and that is if you can stand going through all of the call menus, the prompts, the autolady computer voices, and so on.

I remember once years ago having to call American Express on behalf of my then boss who was traveling in Europe. I got a call center in India, and I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me.

A recent call to my health insurance company Aetna, landed me in a call center in the Philippines. The customer service rep I got on the phone was incredibly pleasant, but she totally didn’t understand what I was trying to do. All I was trying to do was find out where my ID cards were and to verify my binding premium on my new policy was correctly credited.

The only thing this girl got out of our conversation (and was somewhat unable to process or think outside of her script) was she kept trying to sign me up for automatic debiting every month. As a matter fact I had to call back and say I want to be transferred to a United States on-shore call center to make sure I wasn’t signed up for things I didn’t request. And I had been signed up for the automatic debiting I did not want. In this case the language barrier was incredibly frustrating, but there was a true attempt at customer service.

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When I get a good customer service person on the phone these days, I am so complementary I’m sure they think I must’ve lost my mind. But, it is so seldom you actually get really good customer service any longer on the phone that I feel compelled to praise those who actually take the time to do their customer service jobs.

And I tire of the outsourcing, it’s all about the corporate dollar bottom line and what does it do besides line the pockets of executives of that company with a little extra jingle? What does it actually do for the customer who is frustrated by language barriers and hold times?

What about the person to person customer service in bank branches or with your cable service guy comes to fix a problem? Where has it gone? Why has it disappeared? Why is it inconsistent? I spent years in the financial services industry and even when a customer was driving me crazy I didn’t want them to get off the phone feeling less than 100% satisfied. So basically, I treated them the way I wish to be treated.

To me, good customer service should be part of the work ethic. I don’t think you can just do the job, I think you need to do it well. And if people are paying for customer service no matter how small or how large a customer they are, how old, how ordinary, how important, it shouldn’t matter. The customer is a customer is a customer.

This is why I like supporting small businesses so much. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule too. A local Chester County exception would be Athena Pizza in West Chester.

When they are “on”, their food and customer service is excellent, but their largest downfall is their inconsistency. And when you have a problem with an order, it all depends which member of the family owned business you get on the phone. There is literally the nice brother and the horrible brother. When you get the horrible brother, you understand how comedian Jerry Seinfeld got inspiration for one of his most famous characters the soup Nazi.

For 2015 it would be really nice if corporate America, or any business actually practiced what they preached as far as customer service goes. It doesn’t take much to be nice and helpful to customer. Not every customer is going to get the precise resolution they seek, but at the end of the day it’s all about how you treat the customer. And sometimes it would be nice if the company actually admit it when the customer is actually right. And yes the flipside of this argument is we is customers should try to be nice to the companies and their employees.

However if you want corporate customer service anywhere to pay attention to you these days you have to take your complaint to social media it seems. It’s like dog shaming for business. Why can’t the simple phone call take care of things anymore?

One final note is a couple of places where customer service is awesome on a local level is the Wegman’s in Malvern and Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. Wegmans is a big chain and Kimberton Whole Foods is a small chain, but somehow they managed not to forget the core values of customer service. Also the Verizon Wireless independent non corporate store in Frazer next to the Giant in the Lincoln Court Shopping Center should be mentioned as they are terrific.

Thanks for stopping by today.

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quiche with ham, broccoli, and spinach….and a side of teenager

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Yes….how to get more vegetables into your teenager. Of course my teenager has just decreed that he’s not eating any quiche.

(Deep breath…..deep breath…..)

As parents is incredibly frustrating when you are going out of your way to try to make things that will be appealing to them, and then they won’t even try things if they are in a teenage mood. Well the teen can try it, right? Not everything can be of the favorite teenage boy food group of starch sugar and more starch. He was much easier to feed when he was 10, and he was actually open to trying new things and allowing things that were green and vegetable like to pass his lips regularly.

Of course if I had a show on Food Network like Nancy Fuller or Martha Stewart or Ree Drummond or Ina Garten everybody would sit magically around the table which would be set beautifully to perfection every night and eat everything that I made and rave….LOL reality is far different!

Okay enough venting my frustration over the eating habits and mercurial moods of the teenage male! I just have to keep repeating “I love my teenager I love my teenager I love my teenager I love my teenager“.

I think out there somewhere there must be a 12 step program for surviving the teenage years. They really aren’t mutant ninja secret agent super gamer teenage cave dwellers who have taken a vow of silence. My brother-in-law humorously noted recently that the average teenage boy doesn’t really start conversing with adults again until they hit 18 or 19.

Anyway I know this quiche will be delicious. The wine depicted in the photo is for adults in the house.

So how this recipe came about: I had ham leftover from New Year’s. I had frozen the bone for an upcoming lentil soup, but decided to go quiche with the remaining ham meat.

First I made my crust – I am into these herbs and savory crusts these days, so the recipe for this particular crust is below the rest of the quiche recipe.

Once I had rolled out my crust and fit it into my 9 1/2 inch vintage glass dish pie plate, put that in the refrigerator to keep cool well I got to work on the rest of the quiche.

Somewhere during the crust making process I preheated my oven to 375°.

My next step involves the ingredients below:

1 1/2 cups cubed ham
1/2 cup grape tomatoes sliced thin
1 medium onion chopped small
1 cup fresh broccoli diced
Dash of salt fresh cracked pepper
Dash of Cumin

For all those ingredients listed above, sauté with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat for about 10 minutes, maybe 15. Turn off heat and set-aside.

Okay now that that part was complete and the crust was chilling, comes the next step before assembly. It involves the ingredients below:

1 3/4 cups shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Dash sriracha sauce

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach stems removed

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs milk salt, pepper herbs and spices. Add your dash of sriracha sauce.

Fold in the cheese. Take your piecrust out of the refrigerator and place in the center of a rimmed baking sheet – I use a professional jellyroll pan. First layer in the ham mixture from your sauté pan, then add baby spinach – the leaves are so small I don’t bother to chop up. Finally add your shredded cheese.

Place quiche on your baking sheet and your preheated 375° oven. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. I don’t like eating boiling hot quiche so I will let mine sit 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with a green salad.

Oops, I almost forgot, here is how I made the crust:

1/2 teaspoon each rosemary, marjoram, tarragon
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 Tbs. very cold buttermilk

Directions:
To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives or yes your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together. Form dough into a ball and flatten slightly on a floured surface roll out. Put in your pie plate crimp the edges, and refrigerate why you assemble the rest of your quiche.

hamburger pie…or how to get veggies into a teenager

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Hamburger Pie
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet red bell pepper chopped fine fine
1 cup frozen peas thawed/drained
4 or 5 mushrooms sliced thin
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup brown gravy
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
Salt and pepper
Oregano, basil, and cumin to taste
Chili powder to taste

Pastry for 1 double-crust 9-inch pie (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Warm oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add herbs , chili powder, and cumin, garlic, onion, pepper, mushrooms, carrots and celery; sauté on medium about 5 or 7 more minutes. Turn off pan.

In a large mixing bowl stir together tomato sauce and gravy and then add Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Let cool slightly. Use a slotted spoon to lift contents of skillet into gravy-tomato sauce in mixing bowl and fold together. Add peas.

3. (*pie crust recipe below*) Roll out 1 sheet of pastry and fit into deep dish pie plate. Spoon filling into crust and add cheese lightly and evenly on top. Roll out second crust; place on top of pie. Fold top crust over bottom crust; crimp edges to seal. Brush top with egg wash if you want. Cut steam vents in top. Place on cookie sheet and put in oven.

4. Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF; bake until crust is golden and filling bubbles at steam vents, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

5. Slice like a pie after allowing to cool about 20 minutes. Serve with a small dollop of sour cream on top of each slice.

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Slightly Savory Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or butter
1/2 cup buttermilk

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl. Add pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano. Cut in shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add milk until dough forms. Split dough in two even balls and keep wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated until you are ready to roll out.
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